Today I visit with Jean-Christophe Baillie, president & founder of Novaquark, a small gaming company based out of Paris, France, about their new upcoming game Dual Universe.
This game sounds very exciting, with every facet of gameplay being player controlled. This is a very ambitious 25 person team that has been developing this game since the summer of 2001 with showcases at both E3 and Gamescom.
They have a different approach to funding this game, promising transparency throughout the development, as a way to bring fans and support to their revolutionary new Civilization MMO. From keeping an extensive developer’s blog to hosting an open doors event to let people actually come into their studio to try out an early alpha model. These guys mean good business.
These guys are making a point to explain that this is NOT just an MMO, as it has a very extensive crafting system that allows the player to make just about any construct they could think of, encouraging the player to build. Then sell it! That’s right folks, in Dual Universe you will have the ability to make and sell different constructs of your design, including ships and ship parts. Players will also be creating the Economy and government entities as well, already there are hundreds of groups that will be vying for control of the universe.
GP] With all the space-based games that have released in the past few years, how would you compare your game to others like, No Man’s Sky, Elite: Dangerous, or even Space Engineers?
The most crucial difference is both simple and absolutely fundamental: we are a single-shard massively multiplayer game, which means that everybody plays in the same world at the same time. We operate a central persistent server and every player connects to it. It changes everything because you are part of a collective story, what you do has influence on the world, it matters. Think about a big battle that can reshape the geopolitical equilibrium of the system, or a major new ship design that has an impact on battle strategies, or imagine an explorer discovering a new massive source of that precious mineral. Even if you may have seen similar gameplay in other games, it takes a completely new dimension within a single-shard world. We also plan to add a lot of features to favor emergent gameplay: politics, economy, territory management, industry, etc. The second aspect of the game that makes it very different is the possibility to fully edit the world without limit, and to let players build anything they want: spaceships, cities, space stations, anything, with any size. To my knowledge, this has never been seen in a game at that level, and certainly not within a single-shard.
GP] Also, which platforms are you hoping to release Dual Universe on?
For now, we target PC only, and Windows. Linux is a possibility but we cannot make any promise at this stage.
GP] Since building and construction are going to be huge contributing factors in Dual Universe, how will you, if at all, deal with “griefers”, outside of the Arkship safe space?
There are many mechanisms we have imagined: first, the possibility to secure a territory (by claiming it with a Territory Unit) will allow an organization to decide who has the right to edit in this territory. You will also of course be able to protect your territory by setting defense systems. We are also thinking about protection bubbles that will effectively prevent intruders to penetrate in your area. Then there will be the bounty system that will allow you to motivate bounty hunters to chase your enemies. Finally, we will also mark every modification of the world with the player name of whoever has done it, which will add a level of responsibility and accounting in what you do. This will by no means be perfect, but our role is to give the tools for players to be able to react to griefers.
GP] I like the idea of the Arkification tokens, but how would you be able to remove the safe space created by using them?
Arkification tokens have been deprecated, as we realized that they could cause many balancing issues. We will favor instead the possibility for explorers to discover and then unlock new Safe Zones, similar to the one around the Arkship, but on other planets and at a later stage in the game (probably attached to some ancient ruins, connected to the back story). The key is that the location of these Safe Zones cannot be decided or predicted by the players, so they cannot have a strategic role. Players will be able to create protection bubbles that will be similar to Safe Zones, but not indestructible.
GP] I understand that with your voxel creation system, crafting starts with preset shapes and sizes that you can further edit and shape in your own way. In respect to shipbuilding, will there be any preset parts? I.e. Cockpits or engines that players can then edit to make their own version?
Cockpits and engines, like any other “Element”, will be a given in the game design. Players will not be able to modify them, but there will be many versions and variants that will cover desirable variations. We are thinking about introducing at some point (maybe not at release, but in a further expansion) the notion of “Voxel Elements” that would be preset patterns of voxels that the player can simply copy/paste and also create, like a staircase or a nice ship wing. But these will be voxels only, about shape, not functionality.
GP] Will the Virtual Simulator aka “Inception Syndrome” mentioned in your developer’s blog, be a separate instance from the base game? If so, how will you be able to port your creations to the main game?
The Virtual Simulator is a “story” to explain why alpha/beta players may be given more items that they normally would when the game starts, and also why the world will have to be reset. We will probably use it however again for new comers in the released game, as a place for a tutorial and to let them try their voxel tools freely before arriving in the “real” world. In the first case, that is in alpha/beta, we will probably let players take with them their early creations in the form of blueprints. Once the game starts, they will still have to gather the materials and Elements they used in the alpha/beta in order to rebuild their constructs from their blueprints.
GP] For the Average Joe, could you please explain what Dual Conturing is and is it a contributing factor in the name “Dual Universe”?
Dual Universe is about recreating a “dual” world, an alternative reality where people will be able to live adventures and stories, invent a new life, but bigger than life. The notion of duality is a well-known concept in mathematics Two entities are dual when they share the same functional structure, while taking in appearance very different shapes.
GP] Out of your KickStarter goal of at least €500,000($560,000), having just under two weeks left and over €125,000($140,000) to go, are you worried that your campaign won’t come to fruition?
Kickstarter dynamics is such that you usually see a big boost at start (which we had), a rather flat middle, and then a final boost again. Following this pattern, we can be hopeful that this is on the right track. Of course, I would lie to say that we are not worried! We are still not very well-known and we need more people to hear about Dual Universe, which is I think a concept that many gamers would find appealing. I want to say a huge thank you to all our backers already and hope to welcome many more in the future! I also want to say that I think the growth on our Kickstarter is impacted by the lack of trust that people have in ambitious projects following what happened with No Man’s Sky. We understand perfectly that skepticism, and having reservations on big claims is healthy, but I think the proper reaction should be to ask more from ambitious projects in terms of transparency and openness, and keep supporting the most promising and innovative initiatives based on the feedback people get to their questions. That’s why for example, we held an open door event last week, to let any of our backers that was around Paris (some even took a plane!) come and try the game, see for themselves our technology, and build more trust.
GP] In the unfortunate event that you don’t reach your goal on KickStarter, what comes next?
Probably the apocalypse, beware! No, seriously, if the Kickstarter fails we will probably try to find more funding from our investors, and/or from publishers, but with a very weakened position, which will likely have an impact on the game positioning. If the Kickstarter succeeds however, the same discussions would put us in a strong position that would help to bring even more financial support to the game without compromising its vision. For gamers, it’s all about making a statement to the game industry and say “we want this game!”
GP] If all goes as planned, when might we be able to see Dual Universe on the market?
If all goes well, we plan for an alpha in the first half of 2017, a beta about a year later and a first release at the end of 2018. We will then have regular (free) expansion every six or twelve months to keep adding content to the game mechanics.
I, for one, am very anxious to add this title to my library, and so should you. With these major advances in server allocation and crafting, I believe that this game will be one to look forward to. Visit their KickStarter to support this groundbreaking title.